Ron Thomas
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By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
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You Think It's Hot Now? - The Reality Of Hell
Preached 8/10/2008

Text: Matthew 10:28. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Introduction: Recently, we have been experiencing what have been called, "the dog days of summer," which reaching back to the time of the Greeks and ancient Romans, refers to the hottest, most sultry days of summer. Those days usually fall between early July and early September. Incidently, the Old Farmers Almanac describes the "dog days," as a period of forty days beginning July 3rd and ending August 11th. We can only pray!

Lately, its been hot! How hot?

It's so hot, the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.

It's so hot, the farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice, to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs, and the cows are giving evaporated milk.

It's so hot, you can make instant sun tea.

It's so hot, when the temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.

It's so hot, you discover that it takes only two fingers to drive your car, and you notice the best parking place is determined by shade, instead of distance.

It's so hot, hot water now comes out of both taps. It's so hot, you realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

In this chapter, the Lord Jesus Christ empowers, equips, and sends His twelve disciples into the Jewish world, to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." Jesus sends them to preach the gospel of the kingdom, to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out devils. They were to do all of this liberally. In verse 8b Jesus said, "...freely ye have received, freely give." Who would have a problem with that? Evidently, not everyone would receive their message and ministry. As a matter of fact, many would resent and reject it! Why? Because this apostolic ministry of preaching, healing, raising the dead, authenticated the identity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah! Jesus came as a Savior to save sinners. There were people then and people living today who resent being identified as sinners in need of a Savior!

Jesus goes on to prepare them for the rejection and persecution they were sure to experience. To do this, Jesus uses two analogies to picture their situation, and how to respond to it.

First, Jesus speaks of sheep and wolves. He says in verse 16a, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." This is not good news. They were the sheep, and their enemies were the wolves. Sheep are defenseless, grazers. Wolves are blood thirsty, predators. In this world, the followers of Jesus Christ are always going to be vulnerable. History proves that Christians have often been counted as "sheep for the slaughter." Psalm 44:22 says, "Yea, for Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter."

Second, Jesus speaks of snakes and doves. Verse 16b continues, " ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Snakes lay low and do their best to stay out of the way. They have made all sorts of movies about killer ants, killer bees, sharks, spiders, but somehow a movie about killer doves doesn't ring true or engender terror. The most a dove can do is mess up your car, if you know what I mean. Doves are messy, but harmless! Christians are to be smart, lay low, stay out of the way, and keep a calm, gentle demeanor in the face of persecution!

Jesus goes on to tell these disciples, that they would experience the heat of persecution from people of power and influence, both religious and secular. Even members of their own families would turn on them, because of their association with Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. As they face the prospect of persecution, whether it be rejection, isolation, or at worst murder, Jesus encourages them not to be afraid. He tells them that the Holy Spirit will give them His words and thoughts in those tight situations. In verse 24, Jesus reminds them, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord." They will be sharing in the sufferings and sorrows of their Savior, which means one day they will share in His glory! Everything that happens to them, will be revealed one day, and eventually God's justice will be served. This is why the apostle Paul is able to shout in Romans 8:35-37, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

This brings us to verse 28. In this verse, Jesus goes to the worst case scenario, when it comes to persecution. Jesus tells His disciples, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." The most an enemy of Jesus Christ can do is "kill," or terminate the physical body. Jesus is reminding us that while people can destroy our mortal bodies, they cannot touch our immortal souls. People, disaster, or disease may claim our physical bodies, but no one can take us away from Jesus! We have victory over death through Jesus Christ! Once our bodies die, they surrender our soul/spirit to be with Jesus! Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." The apostle Paul reminds us in II Corinthians 5:8, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

Acts 7 records the stoning of Stephen. Stephen was a godly man, who was murdered because of his public stand for the testimony of Jesus Christ. His enemies thought they would be victorious in Stephen's death, but it turned out just the opposite. As he was being stoned to death, Stephen looked up into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, waiting to receive his spirit! Stephen died crying out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell asleep!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, who participated in the German resistance movement against Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. He was imprisoned and hung by the Gestapo just days before the end of the war. His last words were: "This is the end, ...for me, ...the beginning of life." Ten years later, a military doctor reported witnessing Bonhoeffer's kneeling in prayer before his execution. The doctor said, "In the almost 50 years I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

One of the primary reasons we do not witness, is the fear of man. The word anxiety, like worry, stems from a root that means "to choke," and that is just what it does to us. An unhealthy, unreasonable fear or anxiety, can cause us to choke when it comes to sharing Jesus Christ. When we are in those situations, we should remember these words of our Savior, and refuse to choke! Most of the time, we keep quiet rather than witness to someone, simply because it might offend someone or we would be embarrassed. The apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor should we be! It is the power (dynamite) of God that saves!

Jesus continues in verse 28b, "...but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Jesus is saying, "The one to fear is not man, but God!" Why? God alone has the power, the control, over our mortal bodies and our immortal souls! Revelation 1:18 pictures Jesus as having the keys to hell and death! Going to a place known as hell, is worse than being murdered!

The word translated here in our English Bible as "hell," is a Greek word Gehenna (gheh'-en-nah). This word, Gehenna is the most vivid New Testament word that is used to teach and describe the reality of eternal punishment. The word Gehenna (the Greek contraction of Hinnom) was never used in the time of Christ in any other sense, than to denote the place of future punishment. It might surprise you to learn that of the twelve times Gehenna is used, eleven of those times, it is Jesus speaking. Several times, Jesus spoke of those who bodily will be "cast" or thrown into hell. In Matthew 5:29 Jesus said, "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Gehenna)." In Matthew 23:33 Jesus speaks of hypocrites being condemned to hell. "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Gehenna)?" It is obvious, that when Jesus speaks of Gehenna or hell, He does not mince His words. It is a place to be feared!

Why did Jesus chose this particular word to describe a place of eternal punishment? As it turns out, this word has a history. Back in 750 B.C. King Ahaz, the ruler of Judah and father of Hezekiah, offered human sacrifices to heathen gods, in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, a place just south-west of Jerusalem. Among those offered by Ahaz and burned to death, were his own sons. The good and godly Hezekiah replaced his father, but he was succeeded by his son, Manasseh, who rebuilt the altars to heathen gods, re-instituted the wicked practice of human sacrifice, and like his grandfather, offered his own sons in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. Eventually his grandson Josiah, turned the nation back to God, tore down the idols and altars to pagan gods, and transformed the Valley of Ben Hinnom into a public dump. All the garbage and filth of Jerusalem was dumped into this place and burned. Later, the bodies of animals and corpses of criminals were flung there to rot and be consumed by the fire. One writer described it as a place where, "..the fires never stopped burning and the worms never stopped eating." In Mark 9:43-44 Jesus said, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

The Hebrew name for this place was shortened to Ge-hinnom, which in the Greek translation became Gehenna. When you hear or read the English word hell, with it comes all the history and imagery of shame, disgrace, sin, guilt, judgment and punishment of Gehenna. Is hell a reality? If you believe the teaching of Jesus, the answer is "Yes," and it must remain in our theology! To ignore the reality, the certainty, and the seriousness of hell, is to reject the straightforward teaching of Jesus Christ. Hell can never be evaded or avoided by denying its existence. A place called hell, is just as real as the summer heat in north central Texas.

What can we learn from the words of Jesus concerning life, death and a place called hell? Here are: Four Facts That Turn Up The Heat Of Hell

Fact one: Death is the door to eternity in heaven or hell. In our text verse, Jesus shifts the focus off of dying, and onto what happens the moment you die. Death is but the doorway to eternity! We cannot keep people from dying. The best doctors, hospitals, and medical treatment can at best delay our appointment with death, but it will eventually come. You might be riding a bus in Canada, minding you own business and be attacked by a madman, or you might be on a bus trip from Houston to Missouri and the bus blows a tire, hits a guard rail, crashes, killing you and others. The great question is not when or even how you will die, but "Where will you spend eternity?" Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Are you prepared to pass through that doorway? What about those you know and love? Are they prepared?

The Bible speaks of no such thing as an intermediate place or state. Everyone who dies, either goes to heaven or hell. In Luke 16, Jesus speaks of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The beggar died. There is no mention of a burial, but at the point of death, verse 22 says that he was "....carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." This was a place of comfort and eternal blessing! Somewhere along the way, Lazarus had faced his sin and need of a Savior. He was prepared to die. The rich man had obviously trusted in his riches. He was too occupied with his material wealth, to consider his spiritual needs. When he died, he was buried, but verse 23 tells us, " hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments."

Today is the day of salvation! We have today to prepare for our eternal destination, whether it be heaven or hell. Are you prepared? Death will be the end of your opportunity!

Fact two: Hell is a place of torments. Jesus' words teach us that there is a fate worse than death. There is a fate worst than being murdered! The man on that bus in Canada was just taking a nap. He woke up to some stranger stabbing him repeatedly with a hunting knife! What a horrible way to die, yet this earth's worst suffering, cannot be compared to the torments of hell. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The torments of hell are pictured in Gehenna.

In hell, there is unquenchable fire. Gehenna was a place of unquenchable fire! The garbage kept coming, and the fire kept burning! So it is in hell! Jesus speaks of hell as a place of "...everlasting fire." Fire inflicts the greatest pain! In Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus said, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

In hell, there is separation from God and loved ones. Gehenna was a garbage heap. It is the place where people deposit things or cast things they no longer care about anymore and have forgotten; things that are judged to be worthless and useless. No one will care about you in hell. It is an existence spent in isolation and separation. You will be separated from those who are "in Christ," but worst of all, you will be separated from the presence of God! There is no sympathetic ear, no helping hand, no mercy extended in hell.

In hell, there is smoke and darkness. Gehenna was always burning. Smoke never ceased to ascend from this refuse heap. Jesus refers to those who are rebellious and unprofitable as being cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." In II Peter 2:24, it speaks of those angels who rebelled against God and sinned with Lucifer, as cast down to hell, delivered into "chains of darkness," reserved for judgment. Revelation 9:2 says, "And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit."

In hell, there is hopelessness. Being condemned to hell for eternity, is not to be compared with a life sentence in prison. That term in prison could end with a pardon, parole, or at worst, death. Hell is described as the "second death." There is no redemption in hell, therefore there is no hope.

In hell, there is unbelievable, undeniable, physical, emotional, spiritual pain and suffering! Jesus described hell as a place of perpetual "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Words or the most vivid imagination cannot grasp the torments of hell! Just think of living in a burning, stinking garbage dump, where there are creatures that gnaw, bite, sting, and tear, inflicting pain on their victims, yet never consuming them! All of this, and you are surrounded with the sound of continual weeping and anguish.

It is amazing how people every day speak of hell. People often tell others they are irritated with to "go to hell," but if they could see or hear it's torments but a moment, it would keep them up at night!

Fact three: Hell is an eternal place. While our physical bodies are temporal, our souls are eternal! "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The word "kill" used here in reference to our physical bodies, means to extinguish or to abolish. The word "destroy" used in reference to our souls, is a different Greek word, and speaks of being put out of the way or to be lost. Our bodies turn back to dust when we die, but our souls live on to be comforted or tormented forever! There is no annihilation in hell! Matthew 25:46 describes it as "everlasting punishment." If heaven is the eternal home of the redeemed, then hell must be the eternal home of the lost.

Fact four: Hell is the abode of those who reject Jesus Christ, therefore it is avoidable. Our text verse comes as a warning. He is telling us to fear God, not man! Fear God's judgment, not man's judgment. Jesus does not speak of hell with a spirit of vindictiveness. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn us, but to save us! John 3:16 gives us the message of hope. It says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish (spend eternity in Gehenna), but have everlasting life." Jesus is the answer to our sin and God's judgement. On the cross, Jesus suffered for our sin. Jesus endured the judgment and wrath of God, so that we might go free!

Today, most people deny the existence of a place called hell. Even "so called" preachers, pastors and Bible scholars reason it away, even though Jesus speaks of it often and with certainty. There is a heaven to gain, and a hell to shun! Where are you going? Someone said, "No one who is ever in hell will be able to say to God, ‘You put me here,' and no one who is in heaven will ever be able to say, ‘I put myself here.'"

Where will you spend eternity? Listen to God's voice calling you to come unto Him!

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